By Lisa Barr
It was a really long time ago … a memory I’d like to forget. I was in college and had been dating a good guy for a few months. He was cute, had a great sense of humor, played a mean guitar. We were close friends for years, and then it just happened. Skipping a few details … Here’s the ugly: Four girls sat me down in a room and said, “You need to break up with “Brett” if you want to survive around here.” The ringleader — a pretty sophomore Alpha-Female used to getting her way, said: “I have liked him for a while. Everybody but you seems to know it — so break up with him. As in NOW.”
Many of you know me through my blog, but the last thing I deal with — or give in to — is a bully. At that moment, the Bully-Bitch Button was pressed. And basically, I extricated myself from that room with a friendly Fuck You. This was the beginning of Me vs Her. From then on, she tried to make life difficult for me — but I “fought back” by never giving in to her whims and demands. I know it made her crazy.
Flash-Forward 25 years: I’m sitting at a sushi restaurant with my husband and kids, and in she walks with her family. That college “conversation” from the past zoomed through my head, and then I reminded myself: You’re a woman now, you have kids, set an example. Let bygones be bygones.
She smiled, I smiled. Fake-2-Fake. And I realized that the past was buried, but still very much alive.
Before I could say anything, her youngest daughter entered the restaurant a few minutes later, saw my daughter — and the two girls jumped into an excited embrace. Camp buddies. Who knew? As the girls chatted and laughed and talked about the coming summer, I had to make nice-nice — my husband met her husband, yatta yatta. I tried to radio-telegraph a brainwave to my hubby — This is THE BITCH I told you about … Anyway, it was clear that thing between she and I was still palpable. And as we both tried to cover it up — our daughters were busy making plans.
NOOOOO! I screamed inside myself. And then I realized, THIS is exactly how life comes full circle.
It is the irony of our existence: The Bitch ALWAYS comes back.
So, how do you deal with you a childhood/teenage/college/post-college nemesis who has moved into your ‘hood? Her kid is perhaps in your kid’s classroom, her kid is your kid’s cabin-mate, or worse, she is dating your ex-husband (I’ll get to that one in a minute) — oh, the scenarios abound.
How do we let go of the Hurt Inner Child and tap into our Evolved Adult — who my shrink calls “The Wise Woman.”
There is only one way: Don’t push the past event down further, recognize that she hurt you, but YOU are no longer in the same place. You can’t control HER, but you CAN control you. You have grown up, changed with the times, and seen a whole lot of life. Bitch, my friend, can no longer UNDO you.
On the flip-side … if YOU were the Bitch Back Then, don’t think the other woman has forgotten. No one forgets. Forgive yes, forget, no way. I’ve said this in many blogs — Take Accountability. Don’t brush your past under the carpet. The dust lingers. If you do land in the same place, take your Mom “victim” aside and say: “I know it was years ago, but I’m so sorry for how I treated you — and how it must have made you feel. If only I could have a Do-Over, I would completely revise my actions.”
Who, among us, unless that girl slept with your boyfriend behind your back, could not forgive. And by the way, if YOU slept with someone’s boyfriend, and that Mom is now in your life, still take accountability. That wound may not heal, but I guarantee, your words of remorse will help.
What happens in an extreme case? One Mom wrote me a few months ago and said she was really having a hard time because her ex-husband was now dating someone she knew Back In The Day — someone she never liked, and now that woman was not only in HER life, but also in HER kids’ lives. What now?
This is a toughie. The woman said it kills her every time she drives past her ex-husband’s house and that woman’s car is there, or her kids say, “X is so nice, Mommy.”
Where does this woman put all her feelings?
The first rule (in my Unofficial Divorce Playbook) is Put Your Kids First. If Bitch is nice to your kids — that is a good thing. Don’t bring your kids into this drama. Talk about “the situation” non-stop with your close girlfriends — but DO NOT make your children feel guilty — they are already just trying to survive Life-in-Divorce, and deal with all the players.
Your ex, however, sucks. He knows what he’s doing, and how it hurts you. My advice: Remember at that moment, that perhaps this is ONE of the reasons you are not with this man anymore. And instead of hating him, send him a silent note of gratitude — a reminder that you DESERVE a man so much better than him. And perhaps he and Bitch (though it hurts like hell) deserve each other. Remind yourself that you are about to get a new lease on your life, and hopefully, with a man who would never hurt you like that.
There is only one way to Out-Bitch a Bitch. Kill her NOT with kindness, rather show her that you built a good life for yourself, despite people like her who tried to “ruin” it. Your happiness and inner strength are the sole ingredients that give you the edge, that take you on the Higher Road.
What you still may be feeling inside is none of her business. Don’t give her the satisfaction.
Okay, Bitch is now IN your school, her kid is in your class and/or you are on the same committee. Or worst case scenario, Bitch is in your favorite yoga class — your Peaceful Zone — how are you supposed to relax when you feel her cloudy presence in the room?
Don’t run away, or avoid. Don’t change classes. Don’t drop from that committee. Bitch from your youth must be faced head on — or the “ghost of the past” lingers indefinitely. I guarantee the sting will diminish because you are standing your ground, doing what is good for you.
Power is internal, and it’s yours. You own it, not her. Stay right where you are.
A funny story … when I was in fifth grade — I was part of a threesome — and one of the girls always seemed to leave me out of the plans. Every day was a new drama. We both were “fighting over” time with the third girl. This triangle went on throughout grammar school. I survived it — using all the tools I could come up with: act like it didn’t bother me (but it did), work around it (but many times it was hard). Anyway, when my eldest daughter was in fourth grade she encountered the “same” girl. Of course, I shared my war stories, and it helped my kid feel less alone with her feelings.
One day, as an adult, I saw “Mean Girl” in the grocery store. She had an unforgettable name (let’s call her Monica) and I was with my daughters (then 10 and 8). I introduced them to her. And of course, my younger daughter blurted out: “Oh, YOU were Mean Monica — right!”
She looked at me, I looked at her — and we both burst out laughing. She said to my daughter, “Yes, I was Mean Monica, but I promise you I’m no longer mean. I’m a Mommy too — and I’d like to think that I’m Nice Mommy Monica now.” There was something in it that felt so genuine — we ended up meeting for coffee, and Mean Monica is now a good friend.
Accountability. Monica admitted meanness — re-claimed niceness — and made her confession in front of my kids. Who could resist that?
We all have had that Bitch in our lives. And certain women remind us of That Girl. There is a level of trauma when Bitch Comes Back … but if she does, at 30-something, 40-something, 50-something (keep counting) — you have evolved. You’ve seen life — you’ve had your experiences. Look at Bitch as a teacher of sorts. Dealing with her made you camera-ready for Bitch Boss, and other challenging women who jumped onto your path along the way.
Bitch, somehow, inexplicably, made YOU a better person. So if she happens to reappear on your turf after many years … You, Girlfriend, are now ready for her.